Travel FAQs

IMPORTANT UPDATE: SUPREME COURT ALLOWS SOME PROVISIONS OF THE TRAVEL BAN
  1. Can I travel overseas during OPT?
  2. How does travel outside the United States impact the period of OPT unemployment?
  3. Can I re-enter the United States if my request for OPT is still pending?
  4. Can I travel during the H-1B cap-gap extension period?
  5. I am traveling to Mexico or Canada, what is the “automatic revalidation” rule?
  6. Is it safe to travel if your passport expires before the end date of your I-797 Approval Notice?
  7. What if I have an expired passport or one that will expire in less than six months?
  8. My visa is in my old passport, can I still use it?
  9. I have changed jobs and my visa has the name of my old employer. Can I still use it?
  10. Can I travel internationally while my green card application is pending?

 

Can I travel overseas during OPT?

Yes. Very generally, an F-1 student must have the following documents to travel internationally:

  • Valid passport;
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in passport;
  • Valid Form I-20 endorsed for travel by the university’s DSO.

An F-1 student with an expired F-1 visa stamp in his/her passport will have to apply for a new F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad before returning to the United States. In some circumstances, applying for a new F-1 visa for certain applicants can be risky. These risks will vary from case to case depending on the F-1’s personal situation.

Canadian F-1 students are visa-exempt, which means that a Canadian F-1 student only needs the following documents to travel internationally:

  • Valid passport;
  • Valid Form I-20 endorsed for travel by the university’s DSO.

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How does travel outside the United States impact the period of OPT unemployment?

  • If a student whose approved period of OPT has started, travels outside of the United States while unemployed, the time spent outside the United States will count as unemployment against the 90/120-day limits.
  • If a student travels while employed (either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of their employment), the time spent outside the United States will not count as unemployment.

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Can I re-enter the United States if my request for OPT is still pending?

Yes. In addition to having a valid passport, F-1 visa and I-20 (endorsed for travel), F-1s should also carry the I-765 receipt notice. However, if USCIS approves your OPT application while abroad, you should have the EAD in hand when returning to the United States.

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Can I travel during the H-1B cap-gap extension period?

F-1 students who travel outside of the United States during a cap-gap extension will not be able to return to the United States in F-1 status. They must be prepared to apply for an H-1B visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

TRAVEL TIP!
    • An H-1B professional may enter the United States up to 10 days prior to his/her H-1B start date, i.e. September 20 for an October 1 start date. Therefore, if an F-1 student wants to travel over summer, it is best to plan to travel in September, apply for an H-1B visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and return to the United States on or after September 20th. However, s/he cannot start H-1B employment until October 1, the first day of the H-1B.

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I am traveling to Mexico or Canada, what is the “automatic revalidation” rule?

There is a special provision called “automatic revalidation” that allows certain foreign nationals with nonimmigrant visa status to visit a “contiguous territory” (Canada and Mexico) for less than 30 days and return to the U.S. without a valid visa stamp in the passport. In these situations, the validity of an expired nonimmigrant visa may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission at ports of entry. This includes cases where someone has changed their status from another status (e.g. F-1 to H-1B).

For F’s and J’s, this special “automatic revalidation” also applies to travel for less than 30 days to “adjacent islands” (Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, The Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea).

Automatic revalidation applies in two ways.

  1. If you have a visa stamp in your passport that matches your current status, but has expired, that visa stamp is considered to be automatically revalidated to a current date for your return to the U.S. even though it has expired.
  2. If you have changed status while in the U.S., and you have a visa stamp that matches your old status (either expired or unexpired), that visa stamp is considered to be automatically changed to a stamp matching the new status and revalidated to a current date for your return to the U.S. even though it is not the same as your current status and has, perhaps, expired.

F’s and J’s must have the following documents:

  • Valid I-94 record showing an unexpired period of initial admission or extension of stay
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Valid passport

All other nonimmigrants (E-3, H, I, L, O, P):

  • Valid I-94 record showing an unexpired period of initial admission or extension of stay
  • Valid passport
EXCEPTION

The provisions of the automatic revalidation of visas do not apply to citizens of countries identified as state sponsors of terrorism. These are Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba.

Automatic visa revalidation will also not apply if you meet any one of following criteria:

  • You applied for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate and your visa has not yet been issued it to you
  • You applied for a new visa and the U.S. embassy or consulate denied the application
  • You have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that you are out of status
  • You have been out the United States for more than 30 days

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Is it safe to travel if your passport expires before the end date of your I-797 Approval Notice?

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) rule is that it will only admit you to the United States (as reflected on your I-94 record) until the expiration date of your passport. So, if you travel internationally and if your passport expires before the expiration date of your I-797 Approval Notice, you will most likely be admitted to the U.S. only until the expiration date of your passport, instead of the expiration date of the approval notice. The same is true for your family members with dependent visas. If this happens, you should renew your passport and travel internationally before the expiration date of your I-94 record. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) views the expiration date on your I-94 record as the true expiration date of your status. If you do not leave on or before the expiration date of your “short-changed” I-94 admission record, then, you will begin to accrue unlawful presence. If you accrue more than 180 days of unlawful presence, you will be subject to a three-year bar when you leave the United States. If you accrue more than 365 days of unlawful presence, you will be subject to a ten-year bar when you leave the United States.

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What if I have an expired passport or one that will expire in less than six months?

In most cases, to enter the United States, you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date you enter or reenter. However, the countries listed below have an agreement with the United States that allows you to enter on a current passport up to the actual date of expiration.

Try to keep your passport current at all times. You need to determine your country’s requirements and timelines for renewing passports . Many countries will allow you to renew your passport while in the United States. The other alternative is to renew your passport when you return home for a visit.

In some cases, you may want to delay leaving the United States until you have renewed your passport. You will not be able to reenter the United States without a valid passport. If your expired passport has a valid visa, you can still use that visa if you kept the old passport. Present the old passport, along with the new passport when you reenter the country.

The countries that have an agreement with the United States, allowing entry with a passport until the date of expiration, is also known as the “Six-Month Club.”

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My visa is in my old passport, can I still use it?

Yes. If your nonimmigrant visa is still valid and in your old passport, carry your old passport with your new passport. CBP will notate your passport with “VIOPP” which stands for “visa in old passport.”

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I have changed jobs and my visa has the name of my old employer. Can I still use it?

Yes, as long as you are still in the same nonimmigrant visa classification and the visa is valid. So, if you have an H-1B or O-1 visa and you transferred it to another company, you may continue to use the existing visa stamp for re-entry to the United States, even if it has the name of your old company. U.S. embassies don’t want to issue new visas every time someone changes jobs, so this rule exists to reduce the administrative burden and to facilitate travel. However, if the visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa.

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Can I travel internationally while my green card application is pending?

It depends. If you or a family member have filed an I-485 adjustment of status application, you may continue to travel if you have a valid H-1B, H-4, L-1 or L-2 visa. If you are in H or L status but do not have a valid visa stamp, you must either wait for the combo card (combined travel and employment authorization document) or Advance Parole Travel Document or apply for an H or L visa while abroad. If you are in any other status (e.g. B, E, F, I, J, M, O, P, R), you cannot travel abroad until USCIS has issued a combo card or an Advance Parole document. If you travel abroad before receiving the combo card, your I-485 application is considered abandoned.

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